Hampi : The empire strikes back
Trip to Hampi: Dec 26th – 28th 2009
” Goddess Pampa Devi was sexually attracted by the blue skinned Lord Shiva in tight leather pants ……”, Rajesh, our guide, tried hard to explain how Hampi and the main Virupaksha Temple came into being. As I tried hard to suppress my laughter, I knew then that this is going to be an unforgettable trip. A post long due of this trip which I made back in December 2009.
Hampi was the capital of Vijaynagar empire (1336 AD – 1565 AD) covering almost entire South India. It had a population of around 1 million and the empire was the one of the richest in the world at the time. More on the history…
After years and years of contemplation, me and a friend armed with our SLR cameras finally made it to Hampi (during the Christmas weekend in 2009).
We quickly determined when to go? How to go from Bangalore? Where to stay?
When to go?
The best time to go to Hampi is from October – February, when the temperatures are a bit bearable.
How did we get to Hampi from Bangalore ?
The best way is to take the train – Hampi Express. Its an overnight journey from Bangalore to Hospet and back. And thats what we did.
Where to stay?
There are many options now available at Hampi thanks to the influx of tourists esp. from abroad. Tho’ these are not the luxury types.
Option #1 is to stay near Hospet, where one can get accommodation – not advisable as Hospet is around 13 km from Hampi
Option #2 closer to Hampi with 4-5 km – Yes, one can stay in some good hotels such as Hotel Malligi.
Option #3 At Hampi town – there are many guest houses and lodges – However, since this is the temple town, non-veg and alcohol is not served. To get that one has to stay across the Tungabhadra river.
Option #4 Across the river, there are many places which have a typical hippie, Goa feel. Yes, one gets non-veg, beer etc. here. The lodgings are basic but scenic. And is a popular haunt of backpacking foreign tourists (esp. Israelis). To get across the river, there used to be a bridge which is now broken because of the floods. Therefore, one has to take a ferry to cross the river (2 min ride, ferry runs from 7 am to 7 pm). Obviously, the bridge can be built but the “ferry lobby” seems to be strong here.
We stayed at this quaint and popular place called Mowgli Guest House next to the river and scenic paddy fields.
Regardless of where one stays, it is advisable to book the place in advance (we booked one month in advance)
Day 1 :
As we came out of the Hospet railway station in we quickly took an auto rickshaw to Hampi. It dropped us into the town on the banks of Tungabhadra river, where we had to lug our luggage into the ferry to go across the river.
Mowgli guest house was unexpectedly hippie. I liked it. Not a large room, but was clean. We quickly had breakfast (read – “Jakhnoon” – an Israeli bread which is cooked overnight). Interesting….but not quite the fare for the Indian palate.
The first day we decided to roam around a few places and take it easy (after all Hampi is a huge 28 sq. km). We hired bicycles. And we clicked away, the sights, people, the market and the buzz at Hampi.
There are supposed to be more than 80 things to see at Hampi, but we wanted to explore on a few and this day we decided find that out. We checked out the Riverside ruins, Sulé Bazaar (the prostitute’s market), Hampi Bazaar , Pushkarani – the Queen’s bath and finally we biked all the way to Hemakuta hills to catch the sunset. Except that we were a bit early at 4, with clouds covering the sky. We waited. However, impatience gave way and we made it downhill, only to our disappointment as the sun appeared from the clouds…well….
The Sunset from Hemakuta
It was a nice exploratory day and we hooked up with Rajesh, a guide (rather an up and coming guide) for the next day. Ferried back to the guest house.
The evening at the Mowgli’s was awesome, with a low light, low seating arrangement, amazing starters and of course the wine which I brought from Bangalore. Looking forward to the next day.
We met Rajesh, our guide in the morning at Virupaksha Temple (inception in the 7th century AD). The only place which was not plundered by the Muslim invaders as the story goes – the door of the temple bore the empire’s emblem which bore a boar (hah!!) which is unholy to Islam. One could read about it in the link (as its better described there and its not my laziness). But what struck me the most was demonstration of the pin hole camera concept inside the temple (and this was done in the 13th century, unbelievable).
Vitthala temple is a grand and an extravagant architectural marvel. We spent sometime here to come back again the next day.
More mischief by the architects..??
After the Vitthala temple, we hopped on to our carriage for the day an auto rickshaw i.e. driven by Suresh, our guide’s brother. Suresh took us back to Hampi for lunch at a low seating tranquil place by the river.
After lunch we went to the Underground Siva temple. Tho’ its unknown whether “Underground” bit was by design or while excavation this was lower than the ground.
And here is where our conversation started on the the role of the eunuchs in harems. Rajesh, was enlightened by the (hilarious) discussion as he admitted later.
Our next stop was Hazararama Temple known for a thousand Rama statues/carvings. Not huge by Hampi standards but beautiful nevertheless.
And here is where our conversation started on the toilets in the past. Rajesh, fueled by the discussion points about how, where…etc. *censored*, showed me this pit (which was supposed to be a a loo used by the kings or was it?) and went on a long discourse on the same *censored again!*.
Our last stop for the day was the Lakshmi Narasimha Temple which houses the largest statue in Hampi, that of Narasimha or Ugra Narasimha i.e. in a terrifying form. Right next to the temple was Badavilinga, a massive Shiva Linga. We threw coins for good luck on the linga and finally retired with some music, wine and great dinner at Mowgli’s. Next day we decided to cover the grand Vitthala Temple again.
We decided not to go with the guide and hired a scooter (Honda Activa) instead (some Rs. 200 per day). We decided to start with Anegondi, the earlier capital of the empire. It was quite a ride and we were a bit disappointed when we reached there as there not much to see. The ruins and temples were few & insignificant and not maintained well when compared to the ones at Hampi. We had tea at Hoova cafe.
After, whiling our time we turned back and decided to stop on the way to explore pre-historic cave paintings. We were completely lost. There were no signboards, no directions and after asking many people when we eventually walked close to the caves, we could not locate them. Luckily, a farmer spotted up and showed us the caves and paintings. They were beautiful and yes old, more than 5,000 years old.
We quickly drove to the river and ferried our scooty along with us across and drove to Mango Tree for lunch. This is one place one should not miss.
After lunch it was Vitthala all over again followed by some “Aladin” shopping at Hampi. In the evening we left for the Hospet station for the train to Bangalore. We missed quite a bit of places to see and dwell, but we managed to soak in the “Hampi” spirit. I definitely see myself coming back to Hampi again.
Here’s to the Empire !!!